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Exeter

Outside of London, the largest foreign communities in England in the late 17th century were settled in Devon, Canterbury and East Anglia; approximately one third of the population in each. The largest groups were resident in Exeter and Plymouth in Devon, South West England. These settlements came about because of each town’s proximity to the sea and relationship with the textile trade, where immigrants could hope to obtain work. In Exeter there would have been opportunities for skilled weavers in the flourishing serge business. The City briefly became famous for carpet production thanks to Swiss Huguenot Claude Passavant, who purchased a London workshop in 1755, and brought many of the weavers to Exeter. The designs they wove are thought to have been bought from France. Just three Passavant carpets have survived, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Petworth House and in a private collection.

A Huguenot conformist congregation was started at St. Olaves Church, on Fore Street in Exeter in 1686 – one of two churches used by the settlers in the City.  There was also a non-conformists congregation, founded earlier in 1620. Those that attended at St. Olaves were recorded to be 120 strong in 1715, under the minister Andrew Majendie. Services were conducted in French, and the church was popularly known as the French Church. This ceased in 1758, when its members joined the Anglican Church.

A link to Exeter’s Huguenot past exists today in the gentlemen’s outfitters Luget, located in the Cathedral Yard. The Lugets – Anne and James - are thought to have been French Huguenots, who married in Exeter in 1806. Their son Follet Luget, born on 17 December 1817 became a tailor and established the name’s association with tailoring in the City.